Read CHAPTER VII - THE LITTLE LIE-GIRL. of Aunt Madge's Story , free online book, by Sophie May, on

And now I will skip along to the next summer, and come to the dreadful lie I told about the hatchet.  You remember it, Horace and Prudy, how I saw your uncle Ned’s hatchet on the meat block, and heedlessly took it up to break open some clams, and then was so frightened that I dared not tell how I cut my foot.  “O, mamma,” said I, “my foot slipped, and I fell and hit me on something; I don’t know whether ’twas a hatchet or a stick of wood; but I never touched the hatchet.”

It was very absurd.  I think I did not know clearly what I was saying; but after I had once said it, I supposed it would not do to take it back, but kept repeating it, “No, mamma, I never touched the hatchet.”

Mother was grieved to hear me tell such a wrong story, but it was no time to reason with me then, for before my boot could be drawn off I had fainted away.  When I came to myself, and saw Dr. Foster was there, it was as much as they could do to keep me on the bed.  I was dreadfully afraid of that man.  I thought I had deceived mother, but I knew I couldn’t deceive him.

“So, so, little girl, you thought you’d make me a good job while you were about it.  There’s no half-way work about you,” said he.  And then he laughed in a way that rasped across my feelings like the noise of sharpening a slate pencil, and said I mustn’t be allowed to move my foot for days and days.

Every morning when he came, he asked, with that dreadful smile, ­

“Let us see:  how is it we cut our foot?”

And I answered, blushing with all my might, “Just the same as I did in the first place, you know, sir.”

Upon which he would show all his white teeth, and say, ­

“Well, stick to it, my dear; you remember the old saying, ’A lie well stuck to is better than the truth wavering.’”

I did not understand that, but I knew he was making fun of me.  I understood what Ned meant; for he said flatly, “You’ve told a bouncer, miss.”

I was so glad Gust Allen wasn’t in town; he was a worse tease than Ned.  When Abner came in to bring me apples or cherries, he always asked, ­

“Any news from the hatchet, Maggie?” And then chucked me under the chin, adding, “You’re a steam-tug for telling wrong stories.  Didn’t know how smart you were before.”

Miss Rubie said nothing; she came in with Fel every day; but I presumed she was thinking over that solemn text, “Thou, God, seest me.”

’Ria did not say anything either; but I always felt as if she was just going to say something, and dreaded to have her bring in my dinner.

I knew that father “looked straight through my face down to the lie;” but I still thought that mother believed in me.  One day I found out my mistake.  Ned had been saying some pretty cutting things, and I appealed to her, as she came into the room: ­

“Mayn’t Ned stop plaguing me, mamma?”

“No more of that, Edward,” said mother, looking displeased.  “It is too serious a subject for jokes.  If Margaret has told us a wrong story, she is, of course, very unhappy.  Do not add to her distress, my son.  We keep hoping every day to hear her confess the truth; she may be sure there is nothing that would make us all so glad.”

So mother knew!  She must have known all along!  She turned to bring me my dolly from the table, and I saw her eyes were red.  I wanted to throw myself on her neck and confess; but there was Ned, and somehow I never saw mother alone after that when I could make it convenient.

She was right in thinking me unhappy, but she little dreamed how wretched I was.  Horace and Prudy, you have heard something of this before; but I must tell it now to Dotty and Fly; for that hatchet affair was a sort of crisis in my life.

You know I had not always told the truth.  My imagination was active, and I liked to relate wonderful stories, to make people open their eyes.  It was not wrong in the first place, for I was a mere baby.  The whole world was new and wonderful to me, and one thing seemed about as strange to me as another.  I could not see much difference between the real and the unreal, between the “truly true” and the make believe.  When I said my mamma had silk dresses, spangled with stars, I was thinking, ­

“Perhaps she has.  There’s sumpin in a trunk locked up, and I guess it’s silk dresses.”

But as I grew older I learned better than to talk so.  I found I must keep such wild fancies to myself, and only tell of what I knew to be true.  Every time I wanted to utter a falsehood, a little voice in my soul warned me to stop.

Fly, you are old enough to know what I mean.  Your eyes say so.  You didn’t hear that voice when you were patting round grandma’s kitchen, making Ruthie’s coffee-mill buzz.  You were too little to hear it then.  It had nothing to say to you when you stole your mamma’s “skipt,” and soaked it in the wash-bowl; or when you stuffed your little cheeks with ’serves without leave, or told lies, lies, lies, as often as you opened your sweet little lips.

“You don’t ‘member actin’ so?”

O, no; it was “so many years ago!” But I was going to say you did all those dreadful things, and still you were not naughty.  Nobody thinks any the worse of you to-day for all your baby-mischief.  We only laugh about it, for you did not know any better.  But if you were to do such things now, what should we say?  Your soul-voice would tell you it was wrong, and it would be wrong.

My soul-voice talked to me, and I was learning to listen to it.  I was not in the habit of telling lies; I had been hurried and frightened into this one, and now it seemed as if I could not stop saying it any more than a ball can stop rolling down hill.

It was dreadful.  I had to lie there on mother’s bed and think about it.  I could not go out of doors, or even walk about the room.  Fel had lain in her pretty blue chamber day after day, too sick to eat anything but broths and gruel; but then her conscience was easy.  I wasn’t sick, and could have as many nice things to eat as the rest of the family; still I was wretched.

My little friends came to see me, and were very sorry for me.  I was glad to be remembered; but every time I heard the door open, I trembled for fear some one was going to say “hatchet.”

And when I was alone again I would turn my face so I could watch the little clock on the mantel.  It ticked with a far-away, dreamy sound, like a child talking in its sleep, and somehow it had always one story to tell, and never any other; ­“You’ve told ­a lie; ­you’ve told ­a lie.”

“Well,” thought I, “I know it; but stop plaguing me.”

There was a pretty picture on the clock door of a little girl, with her apron full of flowers.  It was to this little girl that I whispered, “Well, I know it; but you stop plaguing me.”  She went right on just the same, ­“You’ve told ­a lie; you’ve told ­a lie.”  I turned my face to the wall to get rid of her, but always turned it back again, for there was a strange charm about that dreadful little girl.  I could tell you now just how she was dressed, and which way she bent her head with the wreath of flowers on it.  You have noticed the old clock in Ruth’s room at grandpa’s?  That’s the one.  I never see it now but its slow tick-tock calls to mind my sad experience with the hatchet.

Days passed.  I was doing my first real thinking.  Up to that time I had never kept still long enough to think.  It was some comfort to draw the sheet over my head, and make up faces at myself.

“You’ve told a lie, Mag Parlin.  Just ’cause your afraid of getting scolded at for taking the hatchet.  You’re a little lie-girl.  They don’t believe anything what you say.  God don’t believe anything what you say.  He saw you plain as could be when you cut your foot, and heard you plain as could be when you said you never touched the hatchet.  And there he is up in heaven thinking about you, and not loving you at all!  How can he?  He don’t have many such naughty girls in his whole world.  If he did, there’d come a rain and rain all day, and all night, for as much as six weeks, and drown ’em all up ’cept eight good ones, and one of ’em’s Fel Allen.  But ’twouldn’t be you, for you’re a little lie-girl, and you know it yourself.”

It is idle to say that children do not suffer.  I believe I never felt keener anguish than that which thrilled my young heart as I lay on mother’s bed, and quailed at the gaze of the little girl on the clock door.

Still no one seemed to remark my unhappiness, and I have never heard it alluded to since.  Children keep their feelings to themselves much more than is commonly supposed, especially proud children.  And of course I was not wretched all the time; I often forgot my trouble for hours together.

But it was not till long after I had left that room that I could bring my mind to confess my sin.  I took it for granted I was ruined for life, and it was of no use to try to be good.  I am afraid of tiring you, little Fly; but I want you to hear the little verse that grandpa taught me one evening about this time, as I sat on his knee: 

“If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”

I see you remember it, Dotty.  Is it not sweet?  “God is faithful and just.”  I had always before repeated my verses like a parrot, I think; but this came home to me.  I wondered if my dreadful sin couldn’t be washed out, so I might begin over again.  I knew what confess meant; it meant to tell God you were sorry.  I went right off and told him; and then I went and told father, and I found he’d been waiting all this time to forgive me.  It was just wonderful!  My heart danced right up.  I could look people in the face again, and wasn’t afraid of the girl on the clock door, and felt as peaceful and easy as if I’d never told a lie in my life ­only I hated a lie so.  I can’t tell you how I did hate it.

“I’ll never, never, never tell another as long as I breathe,” whispered I to the blue hills, and the sky, and the fields, and the river.  And I knew God heard.

I suppose it is a little remarkable, Fly; but I believe this really was my last deliberate lie.  Children’s resolves are not always the firmest things in the world, and my parents did not know how much mine was good for.  They did not dream it had been burnt into my soul with red-hot anguish.

I have always been glad, very glad, I was allowed to suffer so much, and learn something of the preciousness of truth.  It is a diamond with a white light, children.  There is no other gem so clear, so pure.